Local dignitaries gathered Tuesday afternoon for a joy-filled, informal christening of the new Beman Middle School at the track which overlooks the massive building now under construction.
With the $87.35 million construction project humming along in the background, Board of Education officials and city leaders spoke to several-dozen members of the community — several of them instrumental in ushering the naming project to fruition.
When done, the state-of-the-art building will incorporate an innovation lab and the latest tools used in 21st-century learning.
The crowd clapped and whistled as construction workers at the top of the building unveiled the temporary banner at the conclusion of the ceremony.
“The Beman family — they’re smiling on us today,” said the Rev. Moses Harville of Cross Street AME Zion Church before leading a prayer of blessing. “In the midst of a struggle, you can rise above slavery, racism, classism, sexism. … Peace and love, nurturing, caring and sharing are all that the Beman family represents.”
Superintendent of Schools Michael Conner said the occasion was “monumental for me, as a Black man, the history of this beautiful city, and our American history.”
He recalled the presentation by Wesleyan University assistant professor of African-American studies and Middlesex County Historical Society Director Jesse Nasta on the family’s local and national significance early on in the naming process.
“There was one thing that resonated with me: the last name, Beman. When you unwrap it, that last name is Be A Man. When you think about African-American history, we’ve been striving to be a man to be recognized in this country as a whole, not a half,” Conner said.
“Looking at it from an African-American, that brings significant context to me,” he said.
The Common Council officially named the new middle school, located in front of Woodrow Wilson Middle School on Wilderman’s Way, on Aug. 3.
Woodrow Wilson Principal Cheryl Gonzales, calling herself an advocate of social justice, said she was very pleased to be a part of the event honoring the legacy of a family “who stood at the forefront of abolition and the voting rights for African Americans.
“We will honor the memory of Caesar, Jehiel and Leverett Beman, and Amos Beman by providing an equitable and future-driven education,” she said.
Common Council Majority Leader Gene Nocera, co-chairman of the middle school building committee, a role he shares with Councilwoman Jeanette Blackwell, said he’s pleased the banner will greet students when the 2020-21 academic year begins Thursday.
Middletown Public Schools will be operating under a hybrid plan of learning, with rotating in-person and virtual classes, during the pandemic.
Mayor Ben Florsheim called the new facility a monument to learning. “Victory has many fathers and mothers, and certainly all our due credit today. This is so much more than a school building. We are on a campus that is transformative for the whole city of Middletown.”
Board of Education Chairwoman Deborah Cain said the project was a yearlong effort by countless, committed people.
The Bemans bought parcels of land near Wesleyan University, known as the Beman Triangle, so African Americans could own their own property, she said. It encompasses a wedge-shaped block of land bordered by Vine and Cross streets, and Knowles Avenue on the western boundary of the school.
Five original homes remain there today, Cain said.
Board of Education member Lisa Loomis-Davern shared a quote from the book, “The Parable of the Sower” by Octavia Butler, which, she said, exemplifies the Bemans: “Everything you touch, you change, and everything you change changes you.”
“Regardless of the rocky and unforgiving soil that was around them, they persisted in planting seeds in the hope of shaping a more free and just future,” Loomis said. “Their name is our seed for this next generation.”
Read the original story on The Middletown Press (https://www.middletownpress.com/middletown/article/Middletown-ceremony-celebrates-new-Beman-Middle-15532710.php).
*O&G’s Building Group served as the Construction Manager for the construction of Beman Middle School in Middletown, CT.